Lady In The Water

A Study of the Human Spirit

Main Cast: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bob Balaban, M. Night Shyamalan

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A study of personalities, this tight little drama focuses on one apartment complex (in Philadelphia, but it really could be anywhere in the United States) during about a week’s time. Certain mystical things happen that affect each of the people differently. A sort of morality play acted out in real life (as it were).

The thematic center is Cleveland Heep (Giamatti), a shy apartment manager. In the beginning montage he leads an uptight film critic (Balaban) to his new home, passing and introducing the main characters of the story. Cleveland’s life is a quiet one. That doesn’t last for long: annoyingly someone has been swimming in the complex pool at night, against regulations.

We meet the mystery swimmer: a young woman named Story (Howard), who rescues Cleveland from a dizzy plunge into the depths. We learn that she is a “narf”, a spirit of the water come to deliver important news to someone at the complex. We learn of the background tale in an amusing way: a young college girl has to translate through her mother to Cleveland, much to his exasperation. But eventually the story of Story emerges.

Yes, it is rather improbable, and the people of this place accept it too easily. But within the world created by Shyamalan (who plays the writer Story is searching for) everything makes sense. I thank my gaming experience for this understanding: somehow I doubt many other critics will get the whole feel of the movie. But I do, and not only do I sympathize with Cleveland, I empathize. This is not a thriller, although there is a murdering supernatural wolf-like creature stalking Story.

It is a study of the human spirit. Much like Cleveland had to do to learn the rest of the tale, I reverted to my childhood sense of wonder and love of magic to appreciate the movie. This is sadly missing in many people today, which may be one of the points of the movie.

Please go and see this one, and put aside most of your preconceptions. This tale is aimed at your heart, and should be felt more than analyzed. A funny thing for a skeptic to say, but in the realm of storytelling, appropriate.

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